RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Richmond Kickers were unable to take advantage of an early lead against the Rochester Rhinos, falling to a 3-2 loss in a highly contested match which included a controversial 90th minute penalty kick and ejection.
The Kickers dominated the early stages of play at City Stadium and jumped to an early lead in the 8th minute. Luke Vercollone intercepted a Rochester clearance and passed to Christopher Agorsor on the right wing. Agorsor played a low cross into the penalty area, where Vercollone was on hand to finish into the bottom corner for 1-0. The lively Jason Yeisley nearly doubled Richmond's lead eight minutes later, but his headed effort was straight at Rochester goalkeeper Kristian Nicht.
Rochester didn't create any scoring opportunities until the 25th minute, when Lucas Fernandez dribbled into the Richmond box and took a shot that sailed just wide of the post. Fernandez's chance sparked the Rhinos into life, however, and Graciano Brito forced a fine save from Ronnie Pascale a minute later. Rochester maintained possession and midfielder JC Banks played a deep cross beyond Pascale to the back post, where Brito rose highest to head the ball into the open net to tie the game at one goal apiece.
Brito nearly gave Rochester the lead from a corner after the restart for the second half, but Vercollone was perfectly placed at the far post to deny the striker's goal-bound effort. Both teams pressed for another goal, and an increasing air of desperation set over the players.
There were numerous fouls and contested decisions in the final ten minutes of the match. Yeisley won a foul in a good area for Richmond in the 80th minute, and the resulting shot from Sascha Görres forced Nicht into yet another save. The Rochester shot-stopper couldn't keep Richmond from scoring on the resulting corner kick, however. Ryan Heins' attempted volley at the far post deflected straight to Yeisley, who headed Richmond back into the lead from the six-yard box.
Rochester pressed hard for an equalizer, and were rewarded for their effort in the 84th minute when the referee called a penalty kick for a soft foul inside the box. Substitute Andrew Hoxie sent Pascale the wrong way with his spot kick and Rochester once again restored parity. The Kickers set out again to claim victory, but David Bulow was unable to provide a winner in the 87th minute, firing inches wide from inside the six-yard box.
The tension reached its summit in stoppage time, when JC Banks was not called for a high kick and continued his run into the Richmond penalty area. Banks squared the ball to the onrushing Isaac Kissi, who fired his shot into the upper corner of the net to give Rochester the lead for the first time in the match. The Richmond players protested the decision vehemently, resulting in a yellow card for Pascale and a straight red card for Stanley Nyazamba. The Kickers were unable to score an equalizer in the remaining minutes and Rochester claimed all three points.
The Kickers will return to City Stadium on Tuesday June 3 to take on the LA Blues at 7 p.m.